Jean Dubuffet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Jean Paulhan, Paris
    Galerie Krugier, Geneva
    Galerie de France, Paris
    B.C. Holland, Inc., Chicago
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Max Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, fascicule III: Plus beaux qu'ils croient, Paris, 2003, no. 55, p. 125 (illustrated, p. 45)
    Werner Jehle, "Spontane 'Kunstschrift'", National-Zeitung Basel, July 15, 1970, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jean Dubuffet’s Jouhandeau innocent was executed in 1946, and is therefore one of the historic group of portraits that the artist created that year. The subject is the celebrated author Marcel Jouhandeau, who featured in a number of other pictures by Dubuffet from the period. As befitted Dubuffet, these were not the eulogizing portraits with which people tended to be familiar. Instead, he avoided simple likenesses, aiming to capture something that was more of a jolt to the system. This is apparent in Jouhandeau innocent, in which the densely-worked charcoal of the figure contrasts with the paleness of the sheet of paper on which it has been created. The author is shown as a jutting, dark stalagmite, towering up composition. Dubuffet, rather than flattering his subject, has instead opted to isolate and emphasize a few key features: his tall, thin frame, his glasses, his plug ears and the harelip recorded in so many photographs of him in the era. When a group of Dubuffet’s portraits were exhibited in 1947, in one of his earliest exhibitions, he wrote in the catalogue words which apply tellingly here: “People are more handsome than they think they are” (Jean Dubuffet, 1947, quoted in Peter Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York, 1962, p. 31).

    Dubuffet had been fascinated by art for a long time before he began to develop his signature style. It was in the early 1940s, during the occupation of Paris, that he began to strip away the gloss of acquired taste and Western canonical thinking, instead seeking a form of art that was more immediate. As he said at the time of exhibiting his Portraits, which included two oils and two drawings of Jouhandeau, “What interests me is not cake but bread…” (Jean Dubuffet, quoted in Peter Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York, 1962, p. 31). During the first half of the 1940s, Dubuffet had slowly acquired a small but devoted following, including a number of writers, beginning with his friend Georges Limbour. It was Limbour who brought Jean Paulhan—the first owner of Jouhandeau innocent to Dubuffet’s studio, and the pair hit it off immediately.

    It was also Paulhan who introduced Dubuffet to the weekly salon lunches held by the American socialite Florence Gould, who asked Dubuffet to record the likenesses of her guests. As well as Jouhandeau, other subjects would include Antonin Artaud, Edith Boissonas, Pierre Matisse, Henri Michaux, Michel Tapié, and Paulhan and Limbour themselves, to name but a fraction. Jouhandeau was a prominent author—and a complex character. He had been raised largely by female members of his family, under whose guidance he had become a devoted follower of the Roman Catholic church. This would result in a long inner conflict with his homosexuality – the tension fueling much of his writing, as well as his marriage. It was perhaps as a reflection of the complexity of Jouhandeau’s character that in Dubuffet’s likeness here, he is described as “innocent".

Property from the Private Collection of William Harris Smith, Chicago


Jouhandeau innocent

inscribed "MARCEL JOUHANDEAU" center right and signed and dated "J. Dubuffet 46" lower right; further numbered "3623" on the reverse
charcoal on paper mounted on paper
19 7/8 x 11 5/8 in. (50.7 x 29.4 cm.)
Executed in October 1946.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $156,250

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue